L.A. Noir – impressions

This was one of my big hopes for 2011.  Rockstar Games’ much anticipated cop adventure game, borrowing from the likes of Grand Theft Auto as well as movies like L.A. Confidential.  The hype surrounding it made a big noise about the revolutionary facial technology that can put real actors into a game world, and the prospect of playing a game that is less about running around with a gun, and more about investigating crime scenes and interrogating witnesses, certainly made me sit up and take notice.  So what is the game actually like to play?

You are ex-war veteran Cole Phelps, starting out as a beat Cop who quickly rises through the ranks, going from Homicide to Vice to Arson.  At first it feels ver much like GTA in the large open world (you get a fully re-created Los Angeles to explore) and being a good guy instead of a criminal is refreshing.  Once you get into the meat of the game, searching crime scenes etc, it’s very unique and interesting, and looking for clues is quite unlike anything out there, that I have played at least.  Also sitting down and quizzing witnesses or suspects is done well, with a system where you must ask questions, which are based on the evidence and clues you have found, and going by what answers the witness / suspect returns, you can choose between believing them, doubting their honesty or calling them a liar.  At first this is tricky to get to grips with, but once you understand what the game is asking of you, getting the job done and putting criminals behind bars can be very satisfying.

Graphically this is impressive, especially as far as the characters and various people you meet are concerned.  The technology is very good, even if the odd recognisable face (did I just spot Matt out of Heroes?) can look a little weird.  The city although very detailed pales in comparison to GTAIV for things going on and stuff to do, and can’t hold a candle technically to Mafia II either.  Also the game suffers quite badly from frame-rate slow down, and it’s obvious that the game world isn’t fully realised with many repeated lines of dialogue from pedestrians and a fair few bugs.  But it creates a great atmosphere of 1940s America though, and for that at least, it does what it came to do.

My main gripe with the game is the repetitiveness of the cases.  I am about half way in, and so far nearly every murder has been a woman and the investigations have constantly resulted in the same on-foot or by car chase, which is nothing we haven’t seen done many times.  Ok, the on-foot stuff is fairly slick, but when you’ve done it five or more times in a row, it gets boring very quickly.  I feel overall that this is a game with a great technology behind it and some good ideas, but for my money at least, it just doesn’t feel very well realised and lacks the variety and compelling story to make it much more than bargain bin fodder.  The kinda game you won’t regret buying cheap or trading-in for, but it’s not one I’d recommend at full price.

Red Dead Redemption – impressions

It’s taken me a while to get around to this one, as there were a few games I wanted to play instead.  Yet with the summer games droubt upon us, I felt it was as good a time as any to sink my teeth into Rockstar’s much acclaimed Wild West action adventure.

You play as John Marston, a cowboy with a mysterious past looking to right wrongs and make a name for himself in the West.  Saved from death by a local rancher called Bonnie, you start out helping her daily work and also doing missions for local law enforcement.  Along the way you’ll find side quests and random encounters that bring the world of the wild west vividly to life.  This is a gorgeous looking game with Rockstar’s tried and tested graphics engine coming a long way since GTA IV and the old west has never looked more atmospheric or picturesque.  Gorgeous vistas, sunsets and huge wilderness and vast plains to explore that are packed with detail and life.  Playing the game, shows that the overall open-world template isn’t that far removed from GTA, and riding a horse, lassooing enemies and gunfights are as much fun as you’d imagine.  Like GTA the game can get a little bogged down with the wealth of things to see and do, and making progress is hampered by the constant distractions of the world, which to be honest is only a small gripe that can be levelled at similar games.

Overall though, I’m having a blast, and the controls, the story and the missions are all well done and easy to get into.  It’ll probably last me a fair while too, knowing how epic Rockstar usually makes its games, so I’m sure I’ll have much more to report on in the coming weeks.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days impressions

I didn’t play the first game, mostly down to almost overwhelming negative reviews, despite the fact I actually liked the look of it.  I chose to make up for this by buying the sequel, a game that has been received marginally better than its predecessor, but still is blighted by very negative reviews.  Which is a shame, because this is an enjoyable, somewhat simplistic but thoroughly engaging shooter, with two shouting, sweary leads that seem to have come out of any half-decent crime thriller of the last twenty or so years.  Continue reading